The cross-industry guide sets out in detail how home moves can take place while still fully complying with social distancing measures and public health guidance.
It focuses on physical contact points and times when professionals would need to enter private residential properties, including practical advice on reducing the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
The guide has been produced by trade bodies and other organisations across the residential sector and will be followed by sector specific guidance from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) tomorrow.
One for consumers engaging in the sector will also be produced.
The guidance has been endorsed by several bodies including RICS, the Conveyancing Association, The Law Society and NAEA Propertymark.
Regulated brokers should also be following the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) guidance in the current situation where necessary.
ID, AML and signatures
Key points for mortgage brokers cover identity checks, witnessing documents and signatures and meeting anti-money laundering (AML) requirements.
The guide notes that ID checks should be conducted using electronic verification methods where possible to avoid the need for physical presence, in accordance with the Legal Sector Affinity Group Covid-19 guidance.
Witnessing should be undertaken in person but maintaining social distancing, with each signatory using their own pen and wearing gloves to minimise virus transmission.
Electronic signatures should be used where possible rather than wet ink signatures and it is important to ensure documents are electronically dated correctly.
Brokers should also consider varying terms and conditions of services offered to clients to allow for potential problems or restrictions arising from Covid-19.
And to avoid physical document exchange for AML checks, electronic identification verification systems should be utilised in accordance with legal sector or FCA guidance.
The guide concludes: “Industry members are expected to behave ethically and professionally, while taking adequate steps to consider health and safety at all times for all parties involved.
“The government has set out enforcement measures to ensure compliance to social distancing measures. Professionals must adhere to government guidelines at all times.”
Patience is required
RICS associate director Ana Bajri said the pan industry guidance builds on that provided by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
“This will support and protect the professionals who play a critical role in the housing sector and consumers. It will ensure that the market operates safely and securely for all those involved, and that it operates very much within a practical, and common-sense approach,” Bajri said.
“While some patience may be required as the industry gets operating again within these safe guidelines, we very much hope to be helping people into their new homes as soon as possible.”
Kate Faulkner, chairwoman of the Home Buying and Selling Group, added: “The re-opening of the property market is incredibly important for those currently stuck in properties which are no longer suitable for them.
“However, property professionals and consumers need to make sure they adhere to these new guidelines so everyone can move safely.
“The property sector has worked incredibly hard to ensure these guidelines allow buying, selling and renting a home to be done safely, which is of paramount importance.”
Conveyancing Association chairman Paul Smee continued: “Our key aim in contributing to this is to ensure that home moves can proceed in a safe manner and that industry professionals are aware of their responsibilities and the actions they should be taking in order to make sure this happens.
“The association is pleased to see the housing market in England being opened up, but is aware that this is not the case yet in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, and there will be ongoing worries about this and the safety of the process.
“This guide is designed to alleviate a number of those concerns and to spell out that safety of both professionals and consumers should be at the heart of everything we do in order to ensure we can move people into their new homes.”